Brad Keselowski finished sixth at Bristol on Saturday night to advance to the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Keselowski achieved his best short track finish of the season and he achieved his 12th top-10 effort in 29 races in 2021. He enters the next round of the Playoffs as the 10th seeded, 51 points behind leader Kyle Larson.
Keselowski jumped 10th on Saturday night and moved from the fall of the green flag to the front of the field. He moved within the top five in lap 17 and stayed there through the rest of Phase 1. The balance on the no. 2 discount tire Ford Mustang was tight towards the end of the opening phase. The car’s overall performance was solid, and Keselowski was rewarded with a fourth place finish when the segment finished at lap 125. Crew chief Jeremy Bullins made the call for four tires and a rail adjustment during stage caution. Keselowski started again in second position at lap 135.
Keselowski took the race lead in lap 138 and ran ahead for the next seven laps before handling became too tight on the Discount Tire Mustang. He remained among the top five as the shift neared its end. The fourth warning of the night on lap 221 set up a round of pits for some of the race leaders under caution – but not Keselowski, as the no. 2-team chose to stay on course. The driver of the Discount Tire Ford restarted third and held on firmly to the position over the last 18 laps of the shift. The 15 points Keselowski earned over the first two phases were extremely important to keep him above the cut-off line to advance to the next playoffs. Keselowski hit four tires cautiously during Phase 2 and he started 11th again in lap 259.
In the final stage, Keselowski and the team worked themselves back into position to achieve a solid finish, despite a tight handling condition on the No. 2 Mustang. He pitched at lap 392 for tires and another lap of adjustments. Keselowski entered 15th for the last green flag run on lap 407. Over the last 93 laps, Keselowski chose his way through traffic. He married Martin Truex Jr. surpassed on lap 434 to climb back into the top 10, and he rushed to sixth place with 33 laps to go. Keselowski chased Alex Bowman and teammate Ryan Blaney in the final laps, but could not work his way into the top five. The strong result still builds confidence at the no. 2-team up as they advance to the next round of playoffs.
“It is the most speed we have shown in some time, and I am very proud of it. That’s great. “This is the best we’ve ever been,” said Keselowski.
“I’m dead happy with it and trying to move on and progress and find more speed for next week.”